Song for the Asking

He scratched the beard that covered most of his face, the patch over his left eye taking care of the rest. His dry lips cracking in the recesses of blackness, trying to hold onto the mouthpiece of the saxophone. He leaned with his back against a wall, decorated with graffiti, cracked, old, dirty ... he felt a kinship with it. They supported each other, a certain symbiotic relationship that started so very long ago. His coat swung around as he looked at the people milling about him, trying to catch their eye, but they gave him as much attention as they did the wall he was holding up. Pulling his thoughts away from his faces made of stone, he focused his breath into the mouthpiece, trying desperately to hold onto the melody he'd started with. The black case lay open in front of him, still empty except for a few small coins. Looks like he was going hungry tonight.
The setting sun tried hard to peep out from behind the clouds. He played with his eye closed, surrendering to the rhythm his mind created,. The rhythm his fingers and breath translated into music, as though they were acting of their own accord. The dented yet smooth surface of the sax felt warm under his palms. The keys, smooth with age, felt familiar as his fingertips caressed them. He poured his soul into the blues. The notes, tangible in his mind, felt soft ... soothing, yet cold, somehow distant, incomplete. Behind his wrinkled dancingeyelid he watched the notes climb to the clouds, saw them lose their way and vanish into nothingness. Losing his place again, he opened his eyes, greeted by a few more coins, worn with use and age, like him, and a little girl staring up at him.
Her pink satin frock with the white sashes, against the drab background they were set in, swayed as she moved, dancing slowly. The brown teddy bear with blue eyes and a black nose that she hugged seemed too big for her little hands. Her big brown eyes, wide open with curiosity, staring at him with wonder in their eyes. He raised his head in a questioning gesture, wondering why she was staring at him.
She shuffled her feet under his gaze, drawing circles in the dust, buying time. She took a deep breath.
"Mister, I don't have any money to pay you, but could you please play 'Humpty Dumpty' for me?"
Her voice was like honey, oozing with innocence and sincerity. She suddenly seemed woefully out of place in her gray surroundings. She reminded him of the patch in the clouds where the sun seemed to be trying to get through.
He smiled his crooked smile, "Sure, sweetie, my name's Thompson. What's yours?"
She looked at him through narrowed eyes, hands on her hips. "My mom used to tell me not to give my name to strangers, so I'm not going to tell you."
Laughing, he put the mouthpiece to his lips. The notes came clear, loud, steady, for the first time in long time. She sang the rhyme in her honey voice, loud, clear ... sweet. He closed his eye and leaned against the wall behind him, losing himself to the music. Her voice faded into the myriad of notes.
He opened his eye to a world a little less gray.